Review: Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
Does Assault Horizon lift itself above the competition, or does it crash and burn?
The experience is all to familiar with Assault Horizon and I’m not referring back to past Ace Combat games. As always, Ace Combat plays much like an arcade flying game rather than a flight simulator. It’s that very reason that many are in love with the Ace Combat series. Now, Assault Horizon still stays true to that, however the changes are quite noticeable once you begin playing. That familiar experience that I mentioned just a bit ago, is more akin to feeling like Call of Duty. Everything from the game-play to the plot reeked of Call of Duty. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to want to be like COD as the gameplay was good and the story-line was far from being bad , but the fact that the game was moving away from the direction that many (including me) grew to love was a bit of a let down.
One of the many changes that fans will first encounter is that the story no longer takes place in Strangereal, which is an alternate version of Earth. Instead, the setting takes place in our modern-day Earth. Weapons, crafts, helicopters, and all that other good stuff is no longer fictional creations, as the setting moves towards a more realistic approach. The year is 2015 and you take the role of a pilot named William Bishop, who is the leader of the NATO 108th Task Force. There’s an on-going war happening between Russia, USA, and many other nearby countries for control of a weapon capable of mass destruction known as “Trinity”. It’s your basic war story with some maniac threatening to use a WMD. This is all told through a series of different missions that’ll have you piloting various types of crafts such as a helicopter or even an AC130. The amount of time you’re going to spend on just beating the campaign is going to be quite long considering that missions drag on for a while, seeing as you’ll be repeating much of your actions throughout the game. This is all due to the repetitive gameplay that is introduced in this new chapter of Ace Combat.
The gameplay I would have to say is fun, but really short-lived. What I mean is that when you play for the first time you’ll really see what makes this game special. The controls are easy and the game still plays very much like an arcade style flight game with a few changes. If your not someone who likes the new controls, there are other options to switch back to the classic Ace Combat controls, although I wouldn’t really recommend it as this game really does feel like it was built around the new controls. The dogfights are really the biggest changes in the game as this time around you’ll have the camera at a much closer view. Whenever you get close enough to an enemy you’ll have the option (mostly mandatory) of locking on. This will send you into a high flying pursuit of the enemy craft, which resembles a short cinematic sequence. This is where I felt the game really struck out. Although these are pretty cool sequences, the scripting behind it is quiet obvious and repetitive. Throughout the game you are constantly going into dogfights, and they typically lack control. The best description would be that it’s on-rails almost; meaning you can’t break out of it or even do small turns, but they all lead up to the exact same spot that each dogfight was intended to go through.
There’s also a counter measure when other crafts lock onto you, which is also a part of the whole repetitiveness. When you are prompted to counter you have to level your craft out and be prepared because as soon as you counter it’ll throw you behind the other craft, in which yet again you’ll be thrown into another partially on-rails Dog Fight. I wouldn’t say that the issue was the Dog Fights on-rail approach, but the spacing between them. I felt like the game just had to keep throwing this at me, which made it feel like the game required less skill then one would hope it does. This may be a big disappointment to hardcore fans as seeing in past Ace Combat games the flying wasn’t so restricted as it is in this rail type of game-play. In other words, it’s built more for the casual then the skilled, though that can all change once you take flight in a competitive multiplayer match.
The multiplayer of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon consists of four game modes. The first is a co-op mode. I always love a game that adds this mode, and Assault Horizon is no different. This mode allows you to team up with a few additional buddies to play through some redesigned missions. It’s quite enjoyable as you’ll have a blast fighting against the many AI’s that are thrown at you and your teammates.
The other modes are Deathmatch, Conquest, and Domination. Conquest is a mode where two teams battle it out and try to destroy eachother’s HQ in a set time limit. Deathmatch is obviously the mode where the only objective is to kill the other player, and Domination is much like Territories or equivalent modes; where you fight over controls of certain regions. All the modes are very enjoyable and it plays very similar to the single-player, though the fact that your playing against others really makes it a bit more challenging. Though some players will get frustrated and leave; luckily the drop in system allows anyone to drop into an ongoing match without any disturbance.
For the most part you’ll probably be spending most of your time playing online as that is really the only mode that is worth playing.
Now I think the strongest spot in this game are really the graphics. I didn’t expect a whole lot from an Ace Combat game when it came down to the graphical specs, but I have to say I am quite impressed with how they turned out. All the vehicles and crafts are detailed well and once you get up in the air you can really appreciate how the aerial view looks. From up high, everything looks as it should be. Mountain ranges, cities, lakes, rivers, forests; it’s all there and looks absolutely stunning from high above the ground. When you do move in closer though you can see that there really isn’t much detail, but your not really meant to be flying that low, and the objects that are detailed on the ground are usually the things you encounter during a scripted Dog Fight.
In no way is Ace Combat: Assault Horizon a bad game. It’s fun and can be quite enjoyable at times, however being a fan of the old games, I feel like this is just a huge let down. If your someone who is new to the series then I suppose this is a title more geared towards you, as the change in direction feels more like a change towards a casual audience when it all came down to the gameplay. The story is decent at best and the graphics is easily the most impressive aspect of the game; but it’s nothing that would warrant a buy. Old fans of the series may want to hold off on this title, as the Ace Combat game you’ve long thought for is not here yet.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes.